Syosset, New York
January 1, 2006
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
The beginning of every new year finds many people making resolutions to improve their lives. Some people make a resolution to strengthen their financial or professional standing. Others resolve to lose weight or stop a bad habit. And there are many people who express the desire to improve their relationships with their families or coworkers, to help the needy, or to pursue some other lofty goal in life.
While it is natural to make such resolutions at the beginning of a new year, it is also more often than not the case that, within a few weeks, such resolutions are broken or forgotten. Life returns to “normal,” to the “status quo.” During the subsequent months, little attention is paid to broken resolutions which, by the end of the year, have been thoroughly forgotten.
The very heart of the Gospel may be summed up into a single word: repent! To be a follower of Christ means to resolve to change our minds, our hearts, and our lives, resolving to discern not our own wills and desires, but the Lord’s.
Resolving to live according to God’s will and the example we have been given by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is something that is not restricted to the beginning of a new year, but faces us every day of our lives as Orthodox Christians. We are continually challenged to embrace change by growing stronger in our faith, by participating more regularly in the life of the Church, and by reaching out to others with compassion and love. As we begin every new day, we pray that our repentance will bring us into a more intense relationship with God, with others, and even with ourselves, seeking to accomplish not our own wills, but the will of our Heavenly Father.
The beginning of the new year offers us an opportunity to make a resolution that matters, that transcends the goals inherent in so many “new year’s resolutions” and offers us a foretaste of the very Kingdom of God that, while yet to be fully revealed, is already fully present in the life of the Church. It affords us an opportunity to pursue a new beginning, to transform our commitment and words into conviction and action, and to put our spiritual households into order, not only during the coming year but for the remainder of our lives. Ultimately, making the resolution to repent is not something restricted to the beginning of a new year; rather, it is the challenge—the Gospel’s challenge—to be renewed in body and soul every day of our lives, to change our focus and direction in our pursuit of holiness rather than our own trivial pursuits.
We are blessed by God with the beginning of a new year. In thanksgiving, let us make our resolution one of repentance and interior change, aimed at “the one thing needful”—pursuing our lives in accordance with the will of God and the example of our Savior. Let us “lay aside all earth cares”—and “resolutions”—replacing them with a firm commitment to seek renewal in the Lord. And let us resolve to remain vigilant in fulfilling this resolution, especially in times of temptation or distress—times when Our Lord is quick to hear our prayers for help, guidance, and direction. In so doing, we will discover that indeed the Lord is with us at every moment and in every circumstance, giving us the resolve to grow in and with Him now and in the days to come.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada